Wyoming Bear Hunter Who Accidentally Killed Grizzly Fined $10,000

A judge ordered a Cody hunter to pay $10,000 in restitution to Game and Fish for mistakenly instructing his teenage son to shoot a grizzly bear during a black bear hunt last spring.

Mark Heinz

May 11, 20233 min read

Grizzly bear 5 11 23
(Getty Images)

A Cody man must pay $10,000 in restitution for mistakenly telling his teenage son to go ahead and shoot a grizzly bear during a black bear hunt last spring.

Joel Proffit did the right thing by immediately contacting the Wyoming Game and Fish Department after he discovered that his son had mistakenly shot a grizzly, and not a black bear, Circuit Court Judge Ed Luhm said during Proffit’s sentencing recently.

Game and Fish warden Travis Crane wrote in an affidavit that he inspected the bear’s head and hide and determined that it was a grizzly.

Proffit was charged with a misdemeanor count of being an accessory before or after the fact in taking a grizzly bear, which was shot May 22, 2022, in the North Fork area near Cody, according to reports.

Because he immediately reported the mistake and pleaded no contest to the charge, prosecutors agreed to waive the usual penalty of a $10,000 fine and up to a year in jail. However, Proffit was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to Game and Fish for telling his son to shoot the grizzly.

No Griz Hunting In Cowboy State, Yet

There are spring and fall hunting seasons for black bears in Wyoming. Grizzlies remain under federal jurisdiction and endangered species protection in the Cowboy State and may not be hunted.

However, efforts are underway to delist grizzlies. If they are delitsted, Game and Fish plans to open a grizzly hunting season.

Meanwhile, authorities are searching for clues in the apparently deliberate illegal shooting of a grizzly along the highway between Cody and the Yellowstone Park recently.  

An Easy Mistake To Make

Making the distinction between grizzly bears and black bears can be a challenge for Wyoming hunters. Despite the name, black bears come in numerous shades — including some with lighter coats usually associated with grizzlies. And grizzly bears can also be dark, or even black, in color.

And though grizzlies are generally significantly more massive than black bears, there can be an overlap in the sizes of large black bears and smaller grizzlies.

Grizzlies can generally be distinguished by having smaller ears and a “dish-shaped” face and snout, according to Game and Fish. Grizzlies also have longer claws than black bears, and mature grizzlies have a distinct shoulder hump.

Even so, in low light or thick cover, it can be difficult to make the distinction. As part of its Hunter Education Program, Game and Fish uses a quiz displaying several photos of grizzlies and black bears and asking students to identify which species is pictured.

The quiz is available online

Mark Heinz can be reached at: Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

Share this article



Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter